Monday, April 25, 2005

Leatherman’s Loop 10K Trail Race
Sunday, April 24, 2005

2005 Leatherman’s Loop race results
2005 Leatherman’s Loop race info

2005 Leatherman's Loop photo slideshow

This was a race that was bound to be interesting, seeing as it's the one that sparked my renewed interest in running and especially in doing races. It's also a race that I had a blast at back in 1999, when I ran it the first time. And it was the first race I ran after my unexpectedly fast time at Dodge the Deer in early April. So there is no question that this was going to be a significant race!

The drive down to the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Westchester is a nice one, along the scenic Taconic State Parkway. It also brings back lots of memories, from all the times I drove down to Vassar and to New Haven. Of course, a few things have changed - in particular, there are no longer any restroom facilities on the TSP (not that there were many before!) and I was horrified to discover that the rest area on I84 is under construction. NOT a good situation for a runner trying to stay hydrated during a 90 minute drive before a race! But I managed to overcome that challenge, got to the park, waited in the very long line of cars at the entrance, and finally - made it!

Getting there early left me with enough time to check out the 2nd stream crossing (which is about 1/4 mile from the finish line) - wow that water was deep. I wasn't reassured by several runners exclaiming that it was the deepest they'd ever seen it. Eventually we all clustered at the starting line, and one difference in the race became very evident - this race has become VERY popular, with around 800 runners this year. The cloud cover broke just as we were getting ready to start, apparently someone gave a blessing (I can never hear anything at the back before a race... why people won't shut up and listen to the RD is beyond me), someone else (a formers Mets pitcher, I think) started us with throwing out a pitch, and - off we went!

I remember being a little frustrated with the crowding at this race the previous time - well, the increase in runners has definitely made that worse. Much of the 1/2 to 2/3 is on singletrack - so little or no possibility of passing, and lots of starting and stopping as people work out the paces they're going to run out.

The first stream crossing was COLD, and about calf-deep, though I managed to get wet up to mid-thigh as I tried to get out. No problem, running warmed me up pretty quickly (once my legs decided to work again.) The course is great - woods and swamp, with tons of mud.

I pushed along at the best clip I could manage, packed almost elbow-to-elbow for the first half. Finally things cleared out and the trails became wider. After a brisk morning things warmed up pretty well - I almost ended up wishing I'd dressed a little lighter. I also found that the fast (for me) pace was really tough to maintain for the last mile or two... just did not have the juice in my legs.

The final stream crossing was challenging, as expected - the water was VERY COLD, and because the stream has flooded its banks there were all sorts of underwater obstacles. At one point I whacked my knee on an underwater stump, which left me with a bloody knee. Trying to run the last 1/4 mile uphill after splashing through ice cold water was a challenge 6 years ago, and it was still a challenge... but in the end I made it, in 1:19, or averaging 12:45 miles. Not nearly as good as I would have liked, but not bad either, considering the course and the crowded trails early on.

So would I do this race again? On the one hand I love the course, and for some reason the Reservation really appeals to me... maybe if I ran it more I'd get bored with it, but the two times I've been there it's struck me as a cool place to be. The size of the race is the major negative - the trails are just too darn crowded during the first half. So I really don't know. Guess I'll have to see what's going on and how I feel next year.

The ride back was pretty... driving through the country on a sunny April day! I can think of worse ways to spend my time...


Next up: the Rochester Spring Classic Duathlon! Should be exciting... I've run races and ridden bike rides, but never both in the same event... and Mendon is one of the hillier areas near Rochester...

all photos in this post are courtesy of

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Self Defense Seminar
Bo Seminar
Toyama Ryu Batto Do Tameshigiri Demonstration
Monday, April 11, 2005

Master Demura's Japan Karate-Do Genbukai International

Master Fumio Demura (courtesy of

Periodically we’re treated to seminars presented by instructors from outside the American Martial Arts Institute. This time we were truly fortunate to have Master Fumio Demura, one of the greatest living martial artists and an absolutely gifted teacher, for two seminars – first self-defense techniques and training drills, and then use of the bo. (And afterwards we had a special opportunity – a demonstration of Toyama Ryu Batto Do tameshigiri!

Anyone who’s trained with Master Demura will understand immediately what I mean when I say that he was his usual subdued self… OK, he was bouncing off the walls! Seriously, the energy, spirit, and enthusiasm for the Arts displayed by Master Demura is incredible. We learned several effective self-defense techniques against punching and kicking attacks, and also against wrist grabs, and thoughout the seminar worked on a variety of drills designed to help us develop focus, accuracy, power, and speed. All in all this was a GREAT seminar.

After a brief break we learned drills and partner work for the bo, and also learned the basic bo kata he has developed. Some of the movements are very different from those we practice in our own Summer Storm bo kata, so it is a very pleasant change of pace. Another nice point is that he presents this kata on his bo video from Black Belt Productions – a definite plus when it comes to practicing!

He wrapped up the seminars with a brief discussion and demonstration of chanbara (padded weapon) sparring. It looks like it could be fun, but I’m not totally convinced of the practical application. For more info, check out Samurai Sports.

A real treat came after the seminars wrapped up – any black belts and iaido students who wanted to stick around went back to the Yorkville location and Master Demura spoke for a while about the history and ideas behind iaido and batto-do. He then gave us a cutting demonstration, slicing through wet tatami rolls, and had Sensei Charles Hobbib demonstrate several cuts. The session wrapped up with Grand Master Crandall, Mr. Morris, and Mr. Phillips getting the opportunity to try their hand at cutting the tatami.

Overall this was a wonderful training opportunity and everything I was hoping for – informative, inspirational, and FUN! Master Demura is an amazing teacher and one of the most positive individuals I have ever met, and I hope we have many more opportunities to share some of his wealth of knowledge.


Master Demura cutting

Master Demura explaining

Sensei Hobbib cutting

Monday, April 11, 2005

Dodge the Deer 5K Trail Race
Sunday, April 10, 2005

2005 Dodge the Deer race results
2005 Dodge the Deer race info

2005 Dodge the Deer photo slideshow

These people have far too much time on their hands, but the flipside is they are very creative. And I guess having a people dressed as a deer, a chipmunk, and a bear isn't any stranger than a Ninja Turtle...

Good day for the race, though I must admit I'm not used to the heat! It was good I was carrying water, because I definitely needed it. I hadn't been to that park in quite a while (in the summer it's pretty crowded, and the trails there are short... I have to do multiple loops to get in a 5-6 mile run) so I had forgotten that it's quite pretty.

Dodge the Deer at the starting line

that's a LOT of runners!

They had a HUGE crowd (just over 300 runners!) which can be a pain in trail races (no room to pass if you get behind someone slower than you.) I was shocked to hit the 1st mile marker in 10:40, since my goal was to push myself and run 12's, given that my typical pace these days is 12-15 minute miles. So I pushed myself to maintain my pace as best I could, ignored my legs telling me they were done at about 2 1/4 miles, and managed an average of 10:03 for the whole thing (31:10 total time.) I was fried at the end, but was pleased to know I haven't totally lost my ability to run faster than 12 minute miles. Overall, it was a good time.

somewhere in the woods

I think it may be worth doing the "Hairy Gorilla Half Marathon" with these folks at the end of October... especially given that it will be held on trails I run all the time anyway.

Of course, now I've got a LOT of suffering to do, if I'm going to be able to run 10 minute miles in the 10K's and 15K's over the next few months... some of which are fairly HILLY 10K's and 15K's...


(all pictures courtesy of the Albany Running Exchange)

Monday, April 04, 2005

5th Annual Saratoga Martial Arts Festival
Saturday, April 2 & Sunday, April 3, 2005

5th Annual Saratoga Martial Arts Festival info

The Saratoga Martial Arts Festival is held at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs. It's a noncompetitive event, with seminars being taught by a variety of instructors, both local and from as far away as Connecticut, Rochester, and Virginia. The 4th SMAF was an absolute blast - I learned a lot and was very much looking forward to this year's sessions!

The sessions were longer this year, which was kind of a plus... unfortunately, that means fewer time slots with more instructors scheduled for each one, so it was even more difficult to get to anything approaching all the seminars I wanted to. Oh, well... next year...


Pentjak Silat with Sensei Jeff Melander: Morning started with a seminar on Pentjak Silat, which is a martial art from Java where all of the people are apparently extremely flexible and have very good knees. The instructor was Jeff Melandar, owner and chief instructor of Red Dragon Martial Arts in Ballston Spa. His energy and enthusiasm is incredible, and his skills are outstanding. Fortunately he was also very accomodating to those of us who are not Javanese, but my knees were still howling by the end. We did some self-defense and then learned part of a kata.

White Crane Techniques with Master Dominick Violante & Sensei Jeanene Ryan: Next up was a seminar on Shaolin Kenpo White Crane Techniques, with an instructor who REALLY impressed me last year. Master Violante (who prefers to be called Master Dom) is another instructor with great energy and enthusiasm, as well as great teaching skills. While his extensive knowledge of Kenpo and Aikido is clear, he also comes across as very open-minded and accepting of other ways of doing things. In particular, he gears his seminars toward teaching 6-8 techniques, in hopes that each person attending will find 3 or 4 that they can then incorporate into their own training. Last year wasn't a fluke - he was just as good this year, team-teaching with Sensei Ryan. The emphasis was on White Crane techniques, and seeing how techniques from other styles could be seen as crane techniques. We did self-defense applications of Kenpo with some aikido thrown in. Some fun stuff, but a lot of falling (aikido...) and no mats. Kind of reminded me of the old CGCC days.

Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu Iaijutsu with Ted Tanaka: After lunch came a pleasant surprise - one of the instructors had cancelled, and Ted Tanaka offered to teach a seminar on Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu Iaijutsu. Couldn't miss that! Ted's actions and attitudes make it very clear that he considers himself a student as well as an instructor, and he has a blast in everything he does. He gave us some great background on MJER, and then we went over some really neat boken drills and some of the bokken katachi I've been trying to pick up on my own via Hanshi Shimabukuro's book and videos. All in all a fantastic session with material that I hope to someday incorporate into my sword classes.

Baguazhang with Sifu Jiang Jian-ye: The last seminar of the day was on baguazhang self-defense techniques with Sifu Jiang, another instructor I was quite impressed with after his seminar last year. His wushu techniques are impressive, particularly since he makes such a big deal over how old he's getting (mid-50's, I believe.) His sense of humor was particularly welcome as I tried to get my inflexible body to approximate some of the moves his incredibly flexible body was doing! I've always been interested in baguazhang, so I really looked forward to this seminar. It involved LOTS of spinning around and getting very dizzy (me, not the attacker.) Good techniques, but I think it would be a long time before I could use them effectively, just because it is a totally different approach from what I'm used to. And we didn't even get into the internal aspects!

After the seminars, various instructors put on a 90 minute demo. Some cool techniques, and I'm very glad I wasn't uke during a lot of the self-defense segments - those guys were getting killed out there. All in all, a really good day and best of all - three more seminars tomorrow!


OK, if they ever decide to hold this on a weekend OTHER than when Daylight Savings Time begins, I will shed no tears... after a very long day of seminars getting up early Sunday to come back is difficult enough - losing an hour of sleep because of the clocks changing makes it an absolute killer. At least I'm not alone in that... most of the folks there looked pretty fried first thing in the morning.

Nihon Goshin Aikido with Sensei Earl Layumas: first seminar of the day, and we started out with warmups (not too different from what we do in classes, with the addition of some jumping jacks and running in place) and (uh oh) warm-up rolls and breakfalls (NOT my strength! fortunately, some of the other aikido folks offered helpful tips.) The instructor was Sensei Earl Layumas, who in some ways was very easy-going and laid-back but in other ways was fairly hardcore. Great teacher, really emphasized one of the underlying points of Nihon Goshin Aikido, which is "whatever gets the job done." Sometimes that's a strike, sometimes it's what we'd think of as an "aikido" move. We spent a lot of time working techniques that ended up with kotagaeshi takedowns and throws. So yes, I spent a lot of time getting put on the mat, and by the end my wrists and elbows felt a lot like my legs and knees did after the Silat seminar on Saturday. At least we had mats to fall on today! Some really good techniques, once I started to understand them. I think I might enjoy studying aikido under Sensei Layumas... too bad he's all the way down in Poughkeepsie!

Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu Japanese Swordsmanship with Alfred Blakely: Another sword seminar! I'm sorry to say I've misplaced my SMAF 2005 Program, so I have no info to offer on Alfred Blakely's background - but I was very impressed with both his knowledge and approach to teaching sword. He gave us some background, both historical and philosophical, and then we worked on bokken practice with partners. Again, some nice drills that I hope to someday incorporate into my sword class!

Hung Ga Kung Fu with Sifu Sharif Bey: The last seminar of the day, and another excellent instructor, this time from the Syracuse area. Sifu Bey tried to go over a tremendous amount of information regarding the Yee system of Hung Ga (Hung Gar) Kung Fu, covering history, principles, and basic exercises to develop energy, conditioning, and proper form. These folks train tough, though it sounds like they also try to train safe, because (as he puts it) when students are injured they can't train. We actually lucked out that he wanted to cover so much, because as a result he didn't make us sit in a horse stance for 5 full minutes (one of the requirements to be recognized as a white belt in his school.) All in all, a GREAT ending to the weekend (one that left me sorry to see it end, as fried as I was.)

So, to wrap up...

Overall a great weekend! Chatted with a few folks I met last year, and a few new folks, as well as some of the instructors... doing my best to generate a good impression of us for these folks despite the fact that my schmoozing abilities are pretty lame.)

Best of all, had great partners in each seminar (last year at one seminar I ended up paired up with one fellow who gave a strong impression that ignorant me was very much beneath him... he worked with me for a little bit and then looked for someone more on a par with his higher abilities. Admittedly, I was clueless as to the particular exercises we were doing, but his unspoken arrogance left a bed taste in my mouth... wouldn't it have been nice if he'd tried to help me understand the techniques better, like some of my other more-experienced partners? And then there was another seminar where my partner kept looking at the clock and didn't want to practice any techniques more than two or three times. I try to do them over and over again in hopes of remembering some tiny portion of what's being covered.) They were very much into the spirit of the event, both in terms of interest in learning and in keeping the contact to a very reasonable level.

Anyway, I got some great material this weekend - just hope I can remember some of it! I'll be tired and sore for a few days, but this was time well spent.